Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jesus Male Chauvanist? - a repost, note the question mark Leah

Simone de Beavvoir in The Second Sex, says, "How can a human being in woman's situation attain fulfillment? What roads are open to her? Which are blocked?" (xxix). This is not just a question spurred on in a post Feminine Mystique era; the position of women has been a source of debate for years, millennia in fact. Within this debate, Christianity, with its machismo undercurrents, has most often been labeled the enemy. The Church has often deserved this label, but does Jesus?

A look at the biblical Jesus reveals that his ministry, in its essence, affirms women. His actions and even the events surrounding his birth convey the significance and value of women, independent of men. God could have chosen any method for Jesus' arrival on this earth; despite societal disapproval, Mary was the choice. Even the genealogy accounted in Matthew prior to the announcement of Jesus' birth lists women. Jesus' choice to integrally involve women in his ministry demonstrates one of the key points of his message: that we can all come and be accepted as we are. His interaction with women: Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the sisters Mary and Martha, and his own mother, demonstrate his compassion for their situations and a desire to equip women like Mary Magdalene or the Samaritan woman to appropriately address their lives and change them. His actions, such as the defense of the adulteress woman, shows that he sought to eliminate the patriarchal interpretations of Old Testament law. As much as Jesus called people to holiness, his response to the woman caught in adultery is compassion and protection—a recognition of a system that unfairly condemns the woman and allows the man to go free (John 8).

Jesus' legacy of valuing women continues after his death and resurrection. In the early church leaders such as Priscilla are noted for their involvement and teaching (Acts 18). This movement towards equality despite societal structures is reiterated in Acts 2 with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, promised to all believers, and in Paul's letter to the Galatians: "There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galations 3:28, NLT).

In the end, it was because of his radical desire to change his society's view of women, orphans, widows, and the socially despised that He was crucified and we have freedom. Our salvation and worth are not determined by gender; women are free.

4 comments:

leah said...

*phew. so you scared me there for one sec.

Sister Sassy said...

Amen! :) I've always felt that the women surrounding Jesus seemed stronger than the men who fled. They stayed by his side, of course they may have been safer from persecution than the men but still.
Good article!

benneer said...

OK, to play devil's advocate, but not the devil who you may be expecting, I thought I'd ask some clarifying questions.

First, I think Jesus was by and large empowering to woman and for his particular culture was radical. But I guess the obvious question is that Jesus was still a male. So if it is a male doing the empowering, or "liberating," of woman couldn't that message still be construed as a fairly insidious form of patriarchy? The equation becomes woman needs man to help her out, enter male, woman is OK. Granted it can be argued Jesus was God, and therefore beyond sex or gender, but Jesus still took a male form.

Another question about what you wrote is the assumption of people being free post Jesus. What does that mean? Obviously you know of the various ways society has us chained in a mess of oppressive systems, either as oppressor or oppressed. In that context what does freedom mean? Is it purely spiritual, giving us respite from the ways in which we are chained? Or is it a practical throwing off of the shackles, a literal freeing of the prisoners and a literal feeding of the hungry?

Finally, where is the agency of the individual in this movement toward freedom? Is Jesus doing the freeing, as you suggest? What does that say about the individual's part in liberation? If you are purely dependent on Jesus for your freedom are you really free?

OK, I know these questions can't all be answered in a blog post, sorry, I just was curious about your opinion on whatever you feel like commenting on.

cheryl said...

"Jesus' choice to integrally involve women in his ministry"

i don't know that women were INTEGRAL in his ministry. there were twelve MALE apostles, and the only woman that remotely came to mind was priscilla (ooh, but don't forget her man-equivalent aquilla).....and that's only because i went to a christian high school and mr dueck was a great teacher. any other regular christian i bet has never heard of priscilla.....